We won’t get April Fooled Again

April Fool GigCity EdmontonEdmonton baby boomers can still remember an epic April Fool’s Day joke played by 630 CHED, which in the early 1970s was the only radio station everyone listened to. The phone company, Ed-Tel, announced that it was going to blow all the dust out of the phone lines at precisely 7:30 am, so you’d best put plastic bags over your phone receivers or dust would get all over your house.

Thousands of schoolchildren fell for it.

April Fool GigCity EdmontonIt’s hard to imagine a prank having such an impact today – where every day is April Fool’s Day. It’s hardly worth repeating examples of lies being spread online on a daily basis: buzzkillfeed.com, rongstory.com, upchuckworthy.com, viralnada.com, puffpost.com and foxnews.com are some of the worst offenders, often playing on human tragedy. Hoax deaths, real deaths passed off as hoax deaths, chem trail hysteria, conspiracy theories about Malaysia flight 370 abound, on top of the 9-11 conspiracies still alive, you name it. The following item will probably be out of date by the time you read this because it’s more than a week old: All that talk about the health benefits of rinsing your mouth out with coconut oil for 20 minutes? Bogus.

The world before the Internet was a golden age of pranks. Newspapers carried a lot of weight, believe it or not it, so there were lots of suckers ready to believe anything. The Edmonton Journal remained pure and never ran April Fool’s jokes. No such restriction at the Edmonton Sun, where once a year its editors could concoct exactly one fake new article. Before Kerry Diotte went into politics, he was the paper’s designated April Fool’s jester. “My favourite was a story I dreamed up that Alberta was going to invent its own time zone called Alberta Advantage Savings Time,” he says. “It was going to be the same time as Ontario so we could get an early start on the business day.”

April Fool GigCity EdmontonAnother story played on former mayor Jan Reimer’s allegedly over-taxing reputation – about a proposal to tax families that flushed the toilet more than 12 times a day. In 1993, Terry Evans of K-97 radio got Winnipeg Jets’ winger Teemu Selanne to say that because he was having immigration issues recent goals he’d scored didn’t count – and so the Oilers made the playoffs after all!

Outrage came from a Sun story about new city law that made super-sensitive smoke detectors mandatory in every home to curb cigarette smoking. Readers believed it because city council had just passed tough anti-smoking bylaws. Additional staff were asked to come in on that day to help deal with the complaints. It even fooled Canada’s national news service at the time, Broadcast News, which reported the story as if it were real – just like so many news outlets do today! They called to complain, “You can’t make up the news! That’s typical Sun tabloid journalism!”

The complaint lines lit up again from the tall tale of a “Mount Ralphmore,” revealing a plan to have Ralph Klein’s face carved upon a mountain in Banff. And did you hear the one about Alison Redford ordering a personal luxury suite be built in the Federal Building? Or wait, that was real.

Which brings us to the other problem with April Fool’s Day in the Age of Google. Bad ideas spread so quickly that any outrageous whim is doomed to come true – because there are so many people crazy enough to try it. The Sun once ran bogus full page ad for “Molsun Dry,” for powdered beer, long before the real (not powdered) brand came along. A fake story about unearthed Doors recordings pissed off a lot of people – at least until “Doors: Essential Rarities” came along in 1999. There was another whopper published in the mid-‘90s about the Banff Hot Springs getting bought by Japanese investors.

As Number 2 once told Dr. Evil: That also … already … has happened.

This just in: Mount Redford is in the works! April Fool! Not really.

(April Fool déjà vu: The original version of this story was published on March 31, 2013.)